Do you know how many steps there are throughout the hills of Sausalito? If you don’t, then ask Dorothy Gibson. She has, in fact, walked them all and they are chronicled in her book “Exploring Sausalito’s Paths and Walkways” published in 2001.
Dorothy arrived in San Francisco from Columbus, Ohio on October 24, 1945. She remembers that day because the city was hosting a world conference celebrating the birth of the United Nations. She had dreamt about coming to the West Coast ever since, as a young Campfire Girl, she was given some beautiful oranges and was told they were from California.
Dorothy received a BA in social work from Ohio State and she easily found a job and place to live in San Francisco. She remembers living with her friend, Martha, on Broadway above the tunnel for a while. One day she came home to find her front door ajar and her black cat missing. The cat had climbed a tree and the house had been vandalized. “Why don’t you move to Sausalito?” her friend suggested, “ They don’t rob houses there.” Dorothy found a small cottage in Sausalito built during the Depression for $70 per month.
Living in Sausalito, she wanted to get involved in “town affairs”. Dorothy recalled, “I went to city council meetings every week and never said anything”. During one session, member Robin Sweeney stopped the meeting to ask Dorothy why she continued to come each week. Dorothy replied, “I want to get involved”. Robin suggested the Planning Commission. They appointed Dorothy to the Planning Commission and she then nominated herself to become the Chairperson.
She chaired the commission during some difficult times, including a movement to develop the Marinship waterfront into hotels. It became such a hot issue that Dorothy ran for City Council in 1974 but lost to Sally Stanford by 27 votes in what some called a “shady vote count”.
Dorothy was later appointed head of the Transportation Committee and got involved in amending and re-writing the General Plan for Sausalito. In her infinite wisdom, she stated, “I introduced walking as an alternative to cars, boats and ferries and we started to walk the pathways and walkways. We walked not only the obvious paths along the water but up and around the hills too.” Thus, the 1990 General Plan included walking the pathways as a means of transportation.
For many years, she led Saturday morning walks around the steps of Sausalito but had to stop last year when she sustained a fall in her home. One of her very favorite walks is up Cable Roadway and over to Fernwood Cemetery in Tam Valley.
When asked what she most loves about Sausalito, she paused for a bit and then said, “It’s got everything… water, hills, views of Mt. Tam, height limits, and varieties of people.”
Finally, when asked what she misses most, without hesitation, she replied, “the old timers”. At 93, this is one old timer who has really walked miles and miles in her own shoes.
A Visit With Dorothy Gibson
by John Oppenheimer